Author Archives: Sibling of Daedalus

A portal to another world.

Sibling of Daedalus writes:

Travel to Ireland via Holyhead [North Wales] in the 1940s and 50s, as depicted in these dreamy travel posters by Norman Wilkinson and others…

Tales of Old Dublin

Posters via Railwayana and

The Irish Sea’s hard border.

In full effect.

Sibling of Daedalus writes:

Some dramatic paintings of wrecks in Dublin Bay that might interest Broadsheet readers, from the image archive of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London.

(1) and (2) represent the wreck of the paddle steamer Queen Victoria (1853), which struck the rocks below the Bailey lighthouse [Howth, County Dublin] during a snowstorm in February 1853. Varying reports record deaths of between 53 and 80 passengers and crew.

(3) represents the crew of another paddle steamer, the Edward landing on the North Bull after another wreck in 1825.

A full list of recorded wrecks in Dublin Bay from 1576 onwards may be found here.

Tales  Of Old Dublin

Gustavus Cornwall right): accused of homosexuality in Victorian Dublin

Eminent Victorian figure with Irish connections accused of homosexuality; sues for libel and loses.

A criminal prosecution ensues.

No, not Oscar Wilde, silly.

Sibling of Daedalus, of Tales of Old Dublin, writes:

Gustavus Cornwall, head of the Dublin Post Office, was accused in Parliament by MP William Smith O’Brien of engaging in frolics with other men in the hothouses of the Botanic Gardens, Dublin, and at musical dinner parties in Raglan Road [Ballsbridge, Dublin 4].

His co-accused were Captain Martin Oranmore Kirwan, known as ‘Lizzie’ and Malcom Johnston, known as the ‘Maid of Athens’, after the poem by Lord Byron: “Maid of Athens, ere we part, give o give me back my heart’. Mr Cornwall himself was known as ‘the Duchess’.

William O’Brien was protected by parliamentary privilege; however, when he repeated the allegations in his journal United Ireland, the Duchess sued for libel.

The jury found against him after a number of men came forward to testify in support of Mr O’Brien’s allegations.

Like Wilde, not one, but two, criminal prosecutions subsequently ensued, but a sympathetic judge at the later trial not only encouraged the jury to find against Mr Cornwall, but also recommended that the press exercise their ‘discretion and Christian forbearance’ against publication, allowing Gustavus, unlike Oscar, to retain his reputation.

He was ultimately acquitted on the merciful, if unimaginative, testimony of three doctors that it was physically impossible to commit sodomy within the confines of a hansom cab.

Tales of Old Dublin

Gustavus photo via National Portrait Gallery, London

Forgotten Irish Tricksters is an occasional series where historian Sibling of Daedalus unearths the inventive Irish con men and women lost to time.

Number 3: Mary O’Neil

Sibling of Daedalus writes:

Bridget Connell, of 35 Cook Street, Dublin, was an elderly lady with only one thing of value: her life, which was insured with the British Life Assurance Company for the sum of £8.

On March 16, 1904, her niece, Mary O’Neill, with whom she shared a tenement, told Mrs Connell, who was ill in bed, that she was in financial difficulties and going out to get money, to lie very still with her eyes closed and not to be annoyed with her.

As instructed, Mrs Connell lay very still all day. She must have known there was trickery, for her niece had left her covered in a shroud and surrounded by candles, but she did not realise that the trick was on her.

The penny dropped, however, at 4 pm. that evening, when a little girl, passing down the stairs, told her that Mary was up on nearby High Street in a cab with a coal porter and a Royal Fusilier, having a merry old time.

Mrs Connell might have been 83 years old but was not slow at putting two and two together. She headed promptly to the nearest British Life Assurance office, only to find that she had been declared dead by her niece earlier that day, for the purposes of obtaining payment under the policy.

The revived corpse was still very much alive at the trial of Mary O’Neill in the Southern Police Court, Dublin, which took place later that year. Mrs O’Neill’s defence that her aunt was expected to die any time was not accepted by the court.

Bitter after having been sentenced to two months’ hard labour, she informed the court that she was sure Mrs Connell would be dead and buried before she came out. It is not clear if this happened.

What is clear, however, is that old habits die hard…

….Three years later, Mary O’Neill was again before the Southern Police Court, this time as the ringleader of the famous Dublin Mammies Insurance Scam – a complicated bit of trickery involving four middle aged women, six insurance companies and not-so-dead corpses too numerous to count.

This time, her husband, William O’Neill, whom she had described, when registering his death, ‘as fine a man as you could wish to see, and now he is gone’, who came back from the dead to give evidence against her….

illustration: ‘The Spectre of the Hall’ by JM Rymer

Previously: Forgotten Irish Tricksters 1: Mary Kate Hodges

Forgotten Irish Tricksters 2: Maureen Corrigan and Charlotte Brownlee

Merrion Square, Dublin, May 28, 1935

Gott in Himmel.

Sibling of Daedalus writes:

While researching fascism in 20th Century Ireland I came across this photo in the Dublin City library archive published in the Evening Mail in 1935…

It shows (in dark suit) Colonel J ‘Very preposterous’ Ryan, Vice-Director-General of the League of Youth (formerly The Army Comrades Association later the National Guard, then Young Ireland but always known affectionately as the Blueshirts), presenting “warrants of appointment” to officers of the ‘Southern Dublin Division’ at the back of 3, Merrion Square, Dublin 2, HQ of the ‘shirts.

More women than Leo’s cabinet.

Just saying…


Dublin City Library Archive

Previously: Sibling of Daedalus on Broadsheet

They’re a little needy.

For the Bloomsday that’s in it.

A swarm of Sirens selected by historical blogger Sibling of Daedalus.

Sibling writes:

Episode 11 of Ulyssess takes place in the Ormond Hotel where Leopold Bloom reimagines two barmaids and a lady of the night as the mermaids inducing men to their deaths in Homer’s epic, Odysseus.

To give these much-maligned, femmes fatlales their due (Siren’s Day?) behold a hand-picked collection of virtually irresistible, shore-based temptresses captured by painters through the years.

As Bloom later notess: “Beauty: it curves, curves are beauty. Shapely goddesses, Venus, Juno: curves the world admires.’


From top: Henrietta Ray; Leon Auguste Adolphe Belly; William Etty; Gustav Wertheimer; Gustav Moreau; Otto Greiner; Peter von Cornelius;  JW Waterhouse; Norman Lindsay; HJ Draper and Otto Greiner.

From top: Mayo-bound German parachutist?l The Evening Herald, November 28, 1945

Or did he?

Forgotten Irish Tricksters‘ is a series by historical blogger Sibling of Daedalus exploring the absolute chancers that brought acting the maggot to an artform but are now barely remembered.

Number 2:  Maureen Corrigan and Charlotte Brownlee.

Sibling of Daedalus writes:

Throughout the Battle of the Atlantic, the bodies of dead German airmen washed up with regularity onto the rocks of the coasts of the west of Ireland.

Occasionally it was rumoured that, like the sailors of the Spanish Armada, some of them survived, hidden in remote cabins, awaiting a more formal invasion by their countrymen.

No one was entirely surprised, therefore, when, in 1944, two teenage girls, Maureen Corrigan and Charlotte Brownlee, reported the presence of foreign parachutists in the Ballina area.

But, after an apparently thorough search by army and Gardai failed to uncover any trace of foreign men, the girls were charged, convicted and sentenced to several months for wasting official time and general trickery.

According to the judge hearing the case, Corrigan and Brownlee were thoroughly bad, their actions prompted by exhibitionism, the wish for their photographs to appear in the papers, and the desire to be interviewed at length by high-ranking army officers.

However, the following year, Sergeant Michael Cavanagh, a Mayo-born soldier in the American Army, disclosed to the Evening Herald the existence of Nazi documents designating North Mayo as a leading airfield base in the event of an invasion of Ireland.

Nothing has been heard of the girls since their conviction and sentence.

High-level trickers or lowly victims of a Churchill-deValera cover-up?

YOU decide.

Previously: Forgotten Irish Tricksters: Mary Kate Hodges

Pic: Frj2


From top: The Dame Street/College Green plaza; The Proposed Plan for Bedford Square, as shown on Roque’s Map of Dublin (1757)

Further to news of a new plaza at the at the College Green end of Dame Street, Dublin 2…

Sibling of Daedalus writes:

This is not the first time a large civic area has been planned for that locale. Back in the 18th century the Wide Streets Commissioners had plans for a similar development at the other end of Dame Street, just in front of the entrance to Dublin Castle.

The proposed square, to be known as Bedford Square, was to consist of a large plaza with a statue of George I in the centre.

The motivation behind the plan was not to provide public amenity to the citizens of Dublin but rather to provide an excuse to clear out the existing disreputable houses in the area, home of many of the city’s brothels as well as the Eagle Tavern, in-town meeting place for members of the Hellfire Club.

The scheme for the new square was abandoned after it was decided that this aim could be better achieved by replacing the proposed plaza with a stock exchange, now City Hall, which stands approximately where the square would have been.

Bedford Square stands with the Eccles Street Circus (abandoned after the decapacitation of Luke Gardiner at the Battle of New Ross in 1798) and the Kennedy Memorial Hall as one of Dublin’s proposed developments what never were.

If the choice had been made to go ahead with the idea of a large civic plaza, Dublin might have developed into a very different, more continental city, with citizens congregating in the open air rather than indoors in pubs. Or perhaps not



Previously: Sibling of Daedalus on Broadsheet

Bedford Square map via archiseek



From top: 14, Windsor Road, Rathmines, Dublin 6: Justice catches up with Clara Whiteley

Diamonds are forever.

Even in Rathmines.

She thought.

Irish Historical blogger Sibling of Daedalus writes:

In 1917 the landlady of 14 Windsor Road, Dublin, let lodgings to a young, smartly dressed and affluent woman, whose husband was said to be in the American Navy.

From the first day of her arrival, she took a great interest in the garden of the house, and kept her own pet flowerbed below her window. The lady subsequently left, and her carefully tended chrysanthemums fell into disarray.

One day, two gentlemen called to the house, and asked the landlady for permission to dig in the flowerbed. A spade was produced, and a small box, wrapped in brown paper, containing diamonds of considerable value, found buried under four narcissii.

The lodger had been the famous jewel thief, 19 year old Clara Whiteley. otherwise known as the Girl with the Diamond Eyes.

She had, without any assistance, stolen the diamonds from from a jeweller in Great Portland Street, London, by pretending she wanted to show them to her husband, who was in another room. In fact, there was no husband, only Clara, long gone when the jeweller went looking.

Clara’s subsequent conviction and deportation to South Africa did not deter her from a life of crime. She was last heard of in 1934 when (as Cecilia Beresford) she was sentenced to 13 months’ hard labour for stealing a cigarette case.

That’ll learn her.

Tales of Old Dublin

Previously: Sibling Of Daedalus on Broadsheet